You can definitely make an impression with the written word. Examples of powerful documents are scattered throughout our history. As early as the 13th century, British barons created the Magna Carta which still stands as the basis for our current system of law. Galileo published articles spreading the then controversial thoughts that changed the way people viewed the globe and Martin Luther shared his religious ideas that began the Protestant Reformation. You might think that only those in power can sway the public but today anyone can use words to find a following and support or criticize a cause on social media. But what impression do you leave if your written words contain improper grammar or incorrect work usage?
The English Language
The English language is one of the most difficult to learn. This is primarily due to the numerous idiomatic expressions, irregular verbs and a complex vocabulary. One of the items that causes problems for even someone who is proficient in the language is the homophone. Homophones are words that have different meanings even though they sound exactly the same. They are spelled differently and therein lies the key to their meaning. Using the incorrect homophone can change your entire message, making it senseless or making you seem uninformed.
The misuse of homophones is probably the most frequent writing mistake found today. So many of these words exist in the English language that it would be impossible to provide proper usage examples for all of them. However, here are a few that demonstrate a variety of differences and the issues that a writer may encounter.
- Affect versus Effect – The spelling Affect is used most often as a verb that means to change or influence something. On the other hand, Effect is generally a noun that indicates the specific change that occurs. You can use the following trick to remember the difference. Affect equals action and both have an “A” in common. Effect is the end result and the common element in these two words is the “E”.
- Complement versus Compliment – The spelling of Complement with an “E” means to complete something and has the word “complete” contained in it. Compliment with an “I” is a term of respect or admiration and means to say something nice about someone.
- Its versus It’s – Without the apostrophe, Its indicates the possessive. Adding the apostrophe makes the word a contraction for it is.
Making the Write Impression
Whether you are creating a formal document or article or simply writing a friendly letter or Facebook post, you want to make a positive impression and ensure that your message is communicated clearly. As already mentioned, it would be impossible to memorize the usage rules for homophones, proper tenses and all the other potential pitfalls. However, there are some tools and techniques you can use to improve your writing. You can practice working with homophones and go through the list to learn them one at a time. More conveniently, you can use an online grammar website to check your completed document.